Wheat for man

cad This is a phrase that has always stood out to me from The Word of Wisdom aka Mormon health code.  In the first 9 verses it advises against tobacco, hot drinks (coffee & tea) and strong drinks (alcohol).  And then there are 7 verses on how to eat: less meat, more vegetables, grain and fruit.  All grain is good, but “wheat for man”.  (Now if you’re allergic, you just are, but as a general rule.)

What is different about man?  A couple things.  We develop more slowly than other animals, and we live a lot longer.  By they age we’re ready to reproduce, many animals are on their last legs.  Our brains aren’t finished developing until our mid 20’s.  And when we do die, we usually die of coronary artery disease/heart attack.  (The coronary arteries are the first branches off the aorta, and go directly to the heart muscle).  Heart disease and stroke kill 740k Americans every year, while Alzheimers kills 85k.  But which are more people afraid of?

We know that while coronary artery plaques are composed of cholesterol, they are caused by inflammation and microtears in the artery walls.  As these form, they are repaired by platelets, which are activated by superoxide (OO-).  Superoxide dismutase is a molecule that deals with superoxide, that I talked about in my last post.

The odd thing about superoxide dismutase is that it can be good or bad depending on where it comes from.  And even when it’s bad, it’s to correct something worse.  But when your cells make their own superoxide dismutase, it is to get rid of superoxide inside the cell, where it has the most danger of complicating processes like cell division.  So we want to get rid of superoxide.  Superoxide dismutase takes the additional step of preventing more superoxide formation, through the resistance of glucose uptake (insulin resistance).  Insulin resistant cells are stiff cells, and they are more prone to the kind of damage outline above, leading to plaques.

But if you get the superoxide dismutase from food sources, then it is in your bloodstream, where it can be involved in regulating blood clots.  On the balance, whole grains are considered to be a benefit for cardiovascular health.  But they do need to be whole.

The real drivers of insulin resistance are substances that can get around the superoxide dismutase defense:  Sugar (particularly fructose), saturated fat (which stiffens cells) and salt (which transports sugar independent of insulin response).  Interestingly, these are all pre-industrial methods of preserving food.  Fat is less obvious, but how long does fried food last vs. non fried?  Cheeses, sausages, and nut butters are protein sources that use fat in place of moisture to yield something humans will eat that bacteria can’t as easily.

The Word of Wisdom is framed by a strange caveat that I’ve seen cut both ways, “in consequence of evils and designs that do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men…”  Some say it is the medical establishment, while others say it is people who profit from alternative health cure alls.  I feel good about it being the food industry, to start with.

image: http://www.heartgacardiology.com/medical_info.html

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